antidotes for creative constipation


Miriam Louisa Simons: detail from scroll - Mu

220 x 220
Detail from a scroll  (980 x 355)

torn Khadi papers, acrylic paint, light-reflective paint, gauze
ceramic fragment, textured card


I’ve been pottering away with color and texture, dyes and pigments, paper and textile, for almost half a century.  Mostly incognito, outside the commercial circuit.  And, by great good fortune, with astonishing students to guide me.

Two things have driven my practice.  First and foremost, an addiction to the mysterious movement of creativity as it takes over and renders me (artist-designer-me) redundant.  Then, and this is a flow-on from the former, inquiring into what steps – if any – can be taken to invite, encourage, cajole or coerce that movement to come and play.

Now that I’m longer in the tooth, it’s obvious that my preoccupation with a kind of religious experience – which manifested for me in the studio – was a crucial part of my wider search for non-dual understanding.

My life took me down the via negativa.  I ended up with teachers like Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Wei Wu Wei, who unpicked my felted fantasies with their ruthless questions.  And as far as the specific topic of creativity was concerned, it was David Bohm who was my mentor – not a visual artist, but a physicist!

This little preamble is my way of explaining that I’ve always been more interested in what sabotages or prevents creative working and thinking, than defining what it might be.  I now suspect there’s no computable answer to the latter.

Over the years I’ve experimented with many activities to see which ones might be effective antidotes to the creative constipation we call block.  When I’m in a painterly mood there’s nothing better than simply getting out the tubes and mixing hues.  Simply mixing, mind you.  No plans, no designs.  I just mix; I make tonal ladders and color ladders.  I simply worship and celebrate color without any agenda.  By the time a morning (afternoon, day, sleepless night) has passed, I’m overflowing with ideas.  Color does that to me.

If the painterly mood is awol I tear things up.  Sometimes I tear up ho-hum work and weave it into – whatever.  Sometimes I tear up lovely hand-made khadi papers from India, or washi and tenguji from Japan.  Then I collage them down, avoiding figurative temptations, just overlapping and juxtaposing.  Sometimes the fragments are already colored, sometimes not.  But I find they will always ask for light and shade so out come the tubes.  Color goes on.  Breathstrokes might float across the surface.  Stitches too.

The names come much later.  As E H Gombrich always insisted: making always precedes matching.

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